You made your case

Always start with a statement of the main issue before fully stating the facts.

Cicero advised that you must not spring at once into the fact-specific part of your presentation, since “it forms no part of the question, and men are at first desirous to learn the very point that is to come under their judgment.”

In 1981, the rules of the Supreme Court of the United States were amended so that the first thing a reader sees, upon opening the cover of a brief, is the question presented. Many court rules, however, don’t require issues or questions presented to be up front or even to be set forth at all. That’s regrettable, because the facts one reads seem random and meaningless until one knows what they pertain to. Whether you’re filing a motion in a trial court or an appellate brief—or, for that matter, an in-house memorandum analyzing some point of law—don’t ever begin with a statement of facts. State the issue first.

But while your statement of the issue should come before a full statement of the facts, it must contain enough of the facts to make it informative. “Whether the appellant was in total breach of contract” is a little help, but not much. Fill in the facts that narrow the issue to precisely what the court must decide: “The appellant delivered a load of stone two days late under a contract not providing that time was of the essence. Was the appellee entitled to reject the delivery and terminate the contract?

Inputs: Antonin Scalia & Bryana A Garnner

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